Google unveiled the Art Project, a unique collaboration with some of the world’s most acclaimed art museums to enable people to discover and view more than a thousand artworks online in extraordinary detail.

Over the last 18 months Google has worked with 17 art museums including the National Gallery (London) and Tate from the UK.The results of this partnership involved taking a selection of super high resolution images of famous artworks, as well as collating more than a thousand other images into one place. It also included building 360 degree tours of individual galleries using Street View ‘indoor’ technology.

With this unique project, anyone anywhere in the world will be able to learn about the history and artists behind a huge number of works, at the click of a mouse.

Each of the museums has worked in extensive collaboration with Google, providing expertise and guidance on every step of the project, from choosing which collections to feature; to advising on the best angle to capture photos; to what kind of information should accompany the artwork.

Works of art included in the project range from Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ to Chris Ofili’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’, Cezanne’s post impressionist works to Byzantine iconography. From the ceilings of Versailles to ancient Egyptian temples, a collection of Whistlers to Rembrandts all over the globe. In total, 486 artists from around the world have been included.

Key features:

Explore museums with Street View technology: using this feature, people can move around the gallery virtually on, selecting works of art that interest them and clicking to discover more or diving into the high resolution images, where available. The info panel allows people to read more about an artwork, find more works by that artist and watch related YouTube videos.
A specially designed Street View ‘trolley’ took 360 degree images of the interior of selected galleries which were then stitched together, enabling smooth navigation of over 385 rooms within the museums. The gallery interiors can also be explored directly from within Street View in Google Maps.

Super high resolution feature artworks: each of the 17 museums selected one artwork to be photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution or ‘gigapixel’ photo capturing technology. Each such image contains around 7 billion pixels, enabling the viewer to study details of the brushwork and patina beyond that possible with the naked eye. Hard to see details suddenly become clear such as the tiny Latin couplet which appears in Hans Holbein the Younger’s ‘The Merchant Georg Gisze’. Or the people hidden behind the tree in Ivanov’s ‘The Apparition of Christ to the People’.

One of the famous artworks chosen for super high resolution treatment is Hans Holbein the Younger’s ‘The Ambassadors’ at the National Gallery, London – one of the most fascinating and popular paintings in the Gallery’s collection. The super high resolution image makes minutely rendered details such as the hard-to-see names of the individual countries, even cities on the globe become legible.

In addition, museums provided images for a selection totalling more than 1000 works of art. The resolution of these images, combined with a custom built zoom viewer, allows art-lovers to discover minute aspects of paintings they may never have seen up close before, such as the miniaturized people in the river of El Greco’s ‘View of Toledo’, or individual dots in Seurat’s ‘Grandcamp, Evening’

Create your own collection:
The ‘Create an Artwork Collection’ feature allows users to save specific views of any of 1000+ artworks and build their own personalised collection. Comments can be added to each painting and the whole collection can then be shared with friends and family. It’s an ideal tool for students or groups to work on collaborative projects or collections.

Nelson Mattos, VP Engineering, Google
‘The last 20 years have transformed and democratised the world of art - with better access to museums in many countries and a proliferation of public artworks. We’re delighted to have been able to collaborate with leading art museums around the world to create this state of the art technology. We hope it will inspire ever more people, wherever they live, to access and explore art - in new and amazing levels of detail.”

Amit Sood, Head of Art Project, Google
‘This initiative started as a ‘20% project’ by a group of Googlers passionate about making art more accessible online. Together with our museum partners around the world we have created what we hope will be a fascinating resource for art-lovers, students and casual museum goers alike - inspiring them to one day visit the real thing.’

Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate
'This pioneering collaboration between Google and some of the world’s leading arts organisations gives us a taste of the digital future for museums. New technology means we can now take these extraordinary art works beyond their individual homes to create the first global art collection. Tate is dedicated to reaching new audiences in this way, and our forthcoming website relaunch will make the most of these opportunities, but the technology and energy that Google has brought to this project has allowed a group of institutions across the world to collaborate in taking an enormous leap forward. The Google Art Project offers a new level of detail in viewing art online that dramatically changes the experience of discovering and learning about great works of art.'

Dr Nicholas Penny, Director of National Gallery, London
'The Google Art Project has enabled museums to showcase some of their greatest and most iconic works of art using Google’s “street view” technology. In addition, Holbein’s Ambassadors, one of the best-known paintings from the National Gallery in London has been singled out from the collection to be viewed in extraordinarily high resolution. Viewers will see details and explore the painting in a way that hasn’t been possible before. The Google Art Project is a powerful example of how digital technology can help art institutions work in partnership to reach out globally, to new audiences, and enable works of art to be explored in depth and with stunning clarity.'

Museums involved:
Alte Nationalgalerie - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin - Germany
Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington DC - USA
The Frick Collection, NYC - USA
Gemäldegalerie - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin - Germany
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC - USA
MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC - USA
Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid - Spain
Museo Thyssen - Bornemisza, Madrid - Spain
Museum Kampa, Prague - Czech Republic
National Gallery, London - UK
Palace of Versailles - France
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam - The Netherlands
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg - Russia
State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow - Russia
Tate Britain, London - UK
Uffizi Gallery, Florence - Italy
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam - The Netherlands

The Art Project in numbers:
11 Cities, 9 Countries
17 Museums
17 ‘gigapixel’ pictures
385 gallery rooms
486 artists
1061 high res artwork images
More than 6,000 Street View ‘panoramas’
Gigapixel Artworks for each museum